Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Quick Way to Organize Your PDF Patterns!

This past weekend Deby over at So Sew Easy sent out a call for pattern testers. I had found Deby several months ago when I downloaded a wrap dress pattern she has listed for free on Craftsy. While I haven't had the opportunity to put together the wrap dress, I am very excited to be one of her pattern testers and am looking forward to giving her new patterns a review.

In the meantime, the projects have been building up and I started feeling a bit overwhelmed by the downloads from the past couple of days. I had downloaded my two bag patterns from Emmaline Bags, a sweet chiffon maxi dress pattern and then today, one from Deby, the Amelia Bag.
Essential Supplies
So with some time off  I decided to get organized! I don't know about you but as I have gotten older and busier, there is not much spare time in my life and I hate to waste it. Sure, I would much rather be sewing  right now! But, I have found that if my sewing and sewing room are not organized not much happens. I simply can't sew. I sit in my sewing chair, look around and wonder what to do next.

To help keep my area tidy several months ago I began keeping my downloaded patterns in spiral notebooks. This has worked really well, is economical, the notebooks are reusable and easy to store and label.

The patterns are organized by the order they will be sewn. The printed instructions are placed in the notebook, followed by the pattern themselves in plastic protective sheets. I take the time to cut out and tape the pieces together as I place them in the notebook. When it is time to sew, I don't want to be putting the pattern together!

It is a good idea to test the scale of the pattern as you are organizing. Your PDF downloadable pattern should come with a test square and the designer will give you the dimensions. This was a 2" test square so it is good to go!

Next comes the tedious and sometimes frustrating part. Piecing the pattern together. The Weekender Knit Dress was a PDF pattern with 30 something pages and required a fair amount of space to assemble. The thing is, if you are off just a tad at the start of your piecing the error grows and grows as you go along and could possibly be off by 1/4 to 1/2 inch by the last piece.. My hubby suggested starting from the middle and working out which I haven't tried yet but plan to. One very nice thing about the Emmaline Bags patterns is a nice gray shaded area for matching pieces that she places on the edges of her patterns. This is by far the most user friendly way of matching up pieces  I have used.

Pattern pieces awaiting fabric!
Once cut and pieced they go into their plastic sheets. Don't worry if you need to fold your pieces a bit to fit them in the plastic protective sheets. A light touch with your iron will smooth them back out when you are ready to use them.

The last step in organizing the patterns is a good sticky tab for dividing patterns and for ease in flipping through your book!
My notebook of current patterns in use is placed near my machine. When I am done with the pattern if I don't like it, I give it away or recycle the paper. I never hang on to a pattern I don't like or will never use again. There are too many patterns I do/will like and they need space!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bowling Ball Bags in the Wall Street Journal

Yesterday in my inbox arrived the Emmaline Bags email newsletter. Apparently, where Emmaline Bags is located in Canada it has been snowing! But, that is not the news. The news is Janelle's (the owner of Emmaline Bags) snow sale to commemorate the first snowfall of the season. 15% off any two items purchased. I have been aware of Emmaline Bags and eyeing a couple of her bag patterns for quite some time and used the snow sale discount to purchase those patterns. The patterns come in a pdf format; translate that to mean, immediately. She also sells all the bag pattern hardware as kits which is nice as one might not have purse buckles, grommets, etc...just laying around ready to use. I thought her prices pretty reasonable and should have my kit in a few days.

But all of this bag pattern talk and her sale brings me to the purpose of this post; bowling ball bags and the Wall Street Journal.

Way back in February when we subscribed to the Wall Street Journal they ran a story on Prada bags. The WSJ features much news and articles about fashion (it's true) and also publishes a glossy fashion magazine insert every so often. The mag is edgy; the adverts are edgy; the fashions are edgy; the photography amazing!


While I wouldn't show most of the magazine to my teenage son and there is no way my middle age body would look good in the fashions featured, I kept all the magazines anyway and actually miss not receiving the recent issues. They gave me marvelous ideas especially in regards to treads, basic shapes, seasonal colors and patterns. If you ever come across one, it is worth picking up.

But, where was I? Oh yeah, Prada.

As you all know it can be desirable to own a Prada bag. In fact, entire industries are dedicated to duplicating Prada (and other designer) bags and sold, for a fraction of what a REAL Prada would go for, on street corners and in the case of my town, the local Antique Mall. So when I saw this feature, I started thinking about how it probably would not be too difficult to make a similar bag. In fact, I was pretty sure I would be able to find numerous pattern copies of the bag. The reason, well....it looks remarkably similar to a bowling ball bag. On second thought, it really is a bowling ball bag complete with designer details, made from high dollar fabrics and with the Prada logo. Okay, okay...so all that IS a big deal.

Gorgeous Contrast.
Tried to find a fabric like the bag of the left. Never found one I loved.

So on the quest I went, looking for a pattern, thinking about if it were possible to create one, contacting my friend Susan, an accomplished seamstress, with my idea. "Why don't we just buy a bowling bag and cover it?" She ask. "Wouldn't that be cheating?" was my response. "Well, it would certainly be easier!"  Susan was obviously not in the same mindset.

It did not take me long to discover there weren't many bowling ball bag patterns out there. In fact, there weren't any! I did find a cute design in one of the One Yard Wonders Books' (can't remember which one) and on a blog somewhere, someone had created a pattern and made it up for a bag swap. Then some weeks later, lo and behold, there was a pattern at Emmaline!


So there the link to the pattern sat for all the summer months on my desktop. Frequently, I would visit the page just to look at the pattern and think about Prada. But, it wasn't until the GAM Challenge that I decided it was time. This is just the right bag for the Ottobre dress and for fall in the midwest. So yesterday I took advantage of the snow sale and ordered the bag pattern and kit. I haven't ever made a bag such as this so keep your fingers crossed.  I am hopeful the directions are clear with lots of pics. I'll let you know.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

November Garment of the Month, Ottobre Magazine and Britex Fabrics

It has been so exciting for me to find this group and challenge that I have already been gearing up for the November GAM:

Seriously, what could be more fun that seeing all the gorgeous garments being made by like minded sewing types, making new sewing friends from all over and BONUS....sewing a new wardrode yourself along the way? I don't know about you but seems like a bit of heaven to me!

There are so many projects that I have been wanting to do, it is hard for me to choose the next one. But, for some time now I have been wanting to sew a sheath dress. Being short and somewhat curvy, the properly fitting sheath dress is a pretty good choice for me. This Vogue pattern has been tempting me for a while.

Love, but too similar to October GAM?
I think the sleeve style and gathered bodice would make it a sort of "modified sheath" but those design elements together with the lower cut vneck, another good choice for short curvy women who are less well endowed, add up to be a winner in my book.

But, I think the Vogue pattern is going on the back burner for now because in the meantime the first issue of my new subscription to the Ottobre Women's Edition Magazine arrived.

Worth the money.
Ottobre is from Finland but is published in a bunch of different languages and has about 20 (mostly) easy patterns complete with pattern sheets and instructions (again thin instructions but they can only do so much in a magazine space I guess). The cost of the magazine is $25 give or take depending on the euro exchange rate and you get two issues. Not too shabby for 40 patterns! More information can be found here.

They also offer up a few free patterns which I happened on while doing this blog entry. Who doesn't love those?

In the issue is another sheath dress pattern with a scoop neck instead of V and longer sleeves. Hmmmm...this might be nice. And easy to sew.

Simple and Elegant. So many accessory ideas come to mind.
Before, when the Vogue pattern shown at the top of this post was in play I ordered some fabric from Britex Fabrics in San Francisco. Let me tell ya, those folks at Britex take their customer service very seriously. A few days after my online order, I got a phone call from a Britex rep who wanted to verify my address because it wasn't coming up "quite right" in their system.  In just 2 days after the call I had my fabric in my hands. Whoa...that was super fast. Britex is at least 2000 miles and many many post offices away. Impressive! Then I opened the box and it was LIKE CHRISTMAS. The fabric was in a sealed plastic bag, wrapped in tissue paper with a Britex seal and I even got a blank postcard! It all may sound trivial but I have ordered MANY yards of fabric online and NEVER has it been delivered with such style. I like.

Sweet package of fabric from Britex.

The Vogue pattern calls for a stretch woven, lightweight double knit or crepe back satin. What I found at Britex was a lovely chartreuse stretch brocade. I think this fabric will be a dream to sew with. A bit of stretch, a lot of body. I can't wait.
This picture is more the true color of the fabric than the pic above.
The sewing directions are very basic and the dress will probably come together pretty easy. A lining would be nice. Pink just flashed in to my mind. Or steel gray. Suggestions anyone?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

New Job.....and Old Sewing Book...

Tomorrow I start a NEW part-time job.

About a year ago it was time to go out and find a part time job as my girl is facing some pretty hefty college bills (if things break her way and she goes to that expensive out of state private school). That job ended up being at a big box home improvement store. The job is okay, I can pick my hours, the pay is decent. I punch in and out and that is that. But lately I have been thinking how I don't really LIKE the job all that much and if something else came along, well, I might give it a go.

Then, last Friday out of blue from our locally owned Viking Sewing Machine dealer and sewing shop came the call out for an empolyee! Seriously, this is a job that speaks to me. Many years ago I sold things; cell phones, yellow pages, newspaper advertising, vitamins and even Dobermans! Selling a sewing machine, well, to borrow my favorite phrase, easy, peasy! And of course, one also gets to sell fabulous fabric, marvelous and so so handy sewing notions AND (here's the part I would not be able to resist) teach classes!! So, I applied for the job, had an interview and start tomorrow. Love, Love, Love. My friend Amy literally squealed with delight when she heard, "that is soooooo YOU!" I couldn't agree more. :)

Aside from my job soul searching and some serious sewing, time has allowed me to peruse my stash of old(er) sewing books. There is one that I keep going back to over and over and it is this:

Published in 1988 by the Simplicity Pattern Co.

The book has clear illustrations and good copy and is a wealth of sewing information. Sure, the 3 or so fashion patterns are a bit out of date EXCEPT for the fact that just today I came across a Kimono pattern from a current designer. And, I don't know, the dress they call a T dress in the book bears a resemblance to a very chic Angela Kane pattern. There is that adage that "fashion repeats itself", minus the shoulder pads. Judging by the skirt lengths this season (have you seen the recent Burda lineup?), I would have to agree.

A sampling of what's in the book:

Detailed fitting guide - have you ever seen that hip circle measurement shown on the right? I haven't.

Nothing makes me happier than a nice seam finish! How about you?

Serger info.

Lovely darts.

And so much more; handsewing, bands and ribbing (a must for knits), collars, interfacing, trims, ruffles and on and on!

The book is widely available on Etsy and at Amazon. I think it would be invaluable to a beginner but is great for an intermediate such as me as well.

October Garment of the Month Challenge - Weekender Knit Dress

So, about a month ago myself and 1,000 plus like minded souls signed up for the October Craftsy.com Sew-A-Long. The feature was a cotton knit dress with sweet contrasting trim at the waistline, sleeves and hem. For about 25 bucks they sent you all the fabric to make the dress and access to the class for as long as Craftys.com remains in business, which is assumed a loooooong time.

The class was scheduled to (and did) open on Oct. 16th. They sent an email reminder on the 15th. Luckily, between when my fabric arrived and the time the class opened was only a couple of weeks, so when the weekend rolled around and thus time to work on dress, said fabric could actually be found! Yippeeee!!!!

At the time of construction of the dress, I was not aware of  The Garment of the Month Challenge:

so unfortunately there are no pictures of the process. Here are some pics of the finished product.

Pattern came in 5 sizes. This is size L.

Bodice (hard to see the gathers at the shoulder and at the waistband)

Bottom hem band.

This dress is quite possibly THE most comfortable piece of clothing I own. And, while it went together in a snap, I would not recommend it to a complete beginner. In my review of the workshop, I noted that the directions were thin and they WERE thin. Basic construction techniques were given and a few tips on working with knits but aside from that not much. In the past, much time, money and effort has gone into the sewing of knits so over the months I have learned a ton about them. Why just recently, a lovely paisley knit blouse that was started in mid-summer was tossed in the scrap pile due to mistakes and general crappy sewing.

This particular fabric while uber soft and cuddly was also uber slippery and roll-ly. Unwisely, construction began on the sewing machine and lasted about 5 stitches before off to the Serger. Because of the Serger and a love for pins, I was able to skip MUCH frustrating pressing. I did press all the seams of the finished dress and all came out lovely.

Actually, I will probably be making more of this dress with some modifications or different types of trim or perhaps exactly the same with different fabric. It is THAT comfortable and easy.